River of Words: Camille Martin’s Poetry Workshops for Teens

     Here are some pictures of me conducting my River of Words poetry workshop at a Toronto secondary school, under the auspices of the Toronto Public Library’s Young Voices program. Below, find out how your school can incorporate River of Words in a flexible and affordable format.

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     A grant that I was recently awarded from the Ontario Arts Council Arts in Education Program is making it very affordable for Toronto secondary schools to invite me to conduct my River of Words poetry workshops. River of Words consists of poetry-writing games, peer discussion and supportive critique, collaborative writing, and confidence-building recitations. With five or more sessions, River of Words culminates in the creation of an anthology of the students’ poetry and a poetry reading, complete with student master of ceremonies and refreshments.
     I love conducting poetry workshops for teens, who I’ve found are hungry for language play, for making mudpies with words. Sometimes, students have anxiety about getting it right, about learning the correct answers to have a successful outcome. River of Words provides a haven for teens to tell that critical voice inside them to take a hike and simply to have fun with language. The student poetry that comes from the River or Words games is always delightful and often astonishing.
     What can these River of Words poetry games do for students?

The ability to relate and to connect, sometimes in odd and yet striking fashion, lies at the very heart of any creative use of the mind, no matter in what field or discipline. —George J. Seidel

This is in essence the benefit of writing poetry: it helps students to think creatively by using language to surprise, delight, and move. This ability to think creatively has far-reaching benefits to students: it’s not only writing beautiful metaphors—it’s discovering that creative solutions to problems often come to us when we give ourselves permission “to relate and to connect” in startling and original ways.
     From years of experience, I know how to unleash creative language in teens–and to have fun in the process, using a series of poetry-writing games. It’s always refreshing to see the initial trepidation that some students feel about writing poetry dissolve as they have fun with the games and take pride in their strange and wonderful creations!
     If you are a Toronto secondary school teacher, librarian-teacher, or principal who would like to explore ways to incorporate River of Words at your school, contact me at


I’m happy to send you more information (including letters of reference from teachers who have witnessed my workshops) and to answer any questions you might have.

Camille Martin

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